We can roughly divide the very big crowd of audio manufacturers into two groups. The first one is announcing to everybody the smallest changes to their products, often cosmetic or so small, that it is not only invisible by the naked eye, but even using a spyglass; while adding elements to the product’s name that should underline the “colossal” (at least for the marketing guys) improvement from the previous version. The second one just uses the statement in the user manual, telling that the manufacturer has the right to make improvements and changes without giving prior notice, etc. This means, that new models tend to appear only in cases, when the “old” ones are not able to take another modification, or when a new iteration has as much in common with the old one as the F-22 Raptor with the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, or keeping the comparison to one brand and model, a 2018 Volkswagen Golf with its ancestor from 1974. The first group encompasses most of the giants populating the shelves with home cinema and budget electronics, where a complete rehash of the catalog every year became a standard, while the second group, the smaller, more specialized manufactures, which have products cycles in years and not months. For obvious reasons, the seasonal request for low and medium price ranges comes in thousands units, while for the full-blood Hi-Fi and High-End this is closer to tenths, or in case of true bestsellers, hundreds of units per year.
Additionally, while for the “normal” client, the change is practically non-existent, as a device once bought, if it works, and does not stand off the current standards, then it does not call for any attention, for the people contaminated with “audiophilia nervosa”, as well as for reviewers, this merry-go-round of seasonal changes can cause a headache. Let us visualize a hypothetical situation, when during a given year we would audition, describe and photograph about 5-6 models (as this is the usual amount per year) of receivers from a “leading manufacturer”. To not make it too much at once, we split it in two month intervals, so you can see, it would take about a year to do. And instead of closing the chapter, with a feeling of a job well done, we see another series on the horizon, with a “1” instead of a “0” or “mk2” in the name, so we would need to do the whole thing over, otherwise we would start lagging behind. Do you envision the enthusiasm, we would have for doing this after a few years of this? An audiophile variety of groundhog day. Seriously.
This is one of the reasons we decided to remain in the more static and less prone to dynamic changes portion of the market, the High-End, where evolution is preferred to revolution, instead of dynamics of market saturation – relationships and respect for the clients, who spend, often significant, amounts for configuring their dream systems for years. And from this group of manufacturers, valuing stabilization, although not shying away from newest technologies, we decided to have a look at some beautiful Danish speakers, from a brand, which is, most probably, known to everyone, who has at least a trace of knowledge of audio from above the hypermarket range. Of course I am talking about Dynaudio, a brand, which products we had already reviewed a few times, being it the more budget Excite X34 and X44, the jubilee Special 40 or the top of the range Evidence Platinum and Evidence Master.
Now is time to have a hands-on experience with a novelty, but an ambiguous one, although practically in 100% inline with the above, lengthy, introduction. It would be difficult to approach the series Contour, present on the market from over 29 years (!!), where we still can find the limited versions 1.4 LE and 3.4 LE from the “old” version, while the new ones – introduced in 2017 – doe not have much in common with those, besides the name, as they were designed from scratch. Not digging too much into detail, it is enough to have a look at the previous and current portfolio of the Danish, to realize, that their affection for the name Contour must be an emotional one, as there is no other explanation for keeping the name for the new speakers. So if you are interested what is brought to the table by the newest version of the Contour, being the sleek floorstanders 30, then I invite you to read on.
As you can see for yourselves, the metamorphosis of the Contour is far beyond that, what in car industry is called a face-lifting. The enclosures, which are narrowing to the back, gained rounded front edges in the front, as well as a clearly convex shape on the back, which made the whole sleeker and we can even say more “sexy”. The current Contour line, besides the tested 30, encompasses a central speaker 25C, stand mount speakers 20 and big floorstanders 60. In all cases, instead of the front shield from MDF there is now a 14mm aluminum plate engulfed for 10mm into the 26mm front baffle and additionally separated from it by a layer of dampening elastomer. Such a three layer sandwich reaches 30mm thickness, the back plate has 38mm and the sides 16mm (19mm in the 60), all those dimensions seem absolutely appropriate. Additionally all panels of the cabinet have a multi-layered structure made from thin plates of MDF pressed together with high pressure. The inside is additionally dampened with additional MDF panels with KERF cuts, which are designed to dissipate standing waves inside the enclosure.
The drivers themselves are also new. In each speaker we find a pair of 18cm midrange drivers 18w55, with MSP membranes able to have long excursions, and a 28mm Esotar2 dome tweeter located above them. Those are connected with a worked out cross-over, carrying elements signed by Mundorf. The diaphragms of the mid-woofers have a thickness of 0.4mm, and due to application of aluminum driver coils with 24% higher weave length compared to the old Contours, what means more windings, 70% higher throw could be achieved. The carcass of the speakers was cast from a magnesium alloy, and their aerodynamical arms were placed asymmetrically, not only to compensate for the weight of the magnet, but also to avoid resonances.
I would like to devote a longer paragraph to the looks of the speakers provided for testing by the distributor of the brand, the Krakow/Warsaw based Nautilus. Robert Szklarz, the owner of the company, knows my skewed attention to wood and woodwork, and willing, that I would not complain to much during the photoshoot, was kind enough to provide the version in the Rosewood Dark High Gloss veneer, instead of the standard high gloss black or white. There are eleven, yes eleven, layers of varnish on the speakers, and if this would not be enough, the fist of those is drying for 40 hours, while each subsequent one for 24 hours. In total four liters of varnish are being used for one pair of the 30, and in the Dynaudio factory there are 30 woodworkers employed, which are busy varnishing and polishing the finished products. The process of cutting the elements required for the speaker cabinets takes 90 minutes on five-head CNC machines, and the finishing of one pair of speakers takes more than three weeks. As you can see, time flows in its own rhythm here, and the production of speakers does have its requirements. If I am not mistaken, a similar attention to detail, in speakers costing below 100 000 PLN, we were confronted during the test of the Gauder Vescova Mk II, what taking into account the 50% difference in price of both speakers, is really favorable for our tested pair.
Additionally, the tested speakers were the first pair from the newest supply and presented itself differently already from the very beginning. First of all, the speakers were not packed in run-of-the-mill cardboard boxes, but in very massive plywood chests, what is absolutely uncommon in this price range. Secondly, I photographed this during the unboxing, those are now equipped with massive plinths, which were not available to date in the Contour series. The previous models, introduced in 2017, had very solid satin-silver feet, you needed to put on them at home, which were then used for leveling the speakers using an Allen wrench. The pair you see on the pictures has two, one for the front and one for the back, black, aluminum plinths, with a very easy to use, without additional tools, leveling system – you just turn the spikes in their rubber seats. This makes the unboxing much easier, as you do not need to bolt anything on, also the leveling procedure takes less time. Kudos for the first impression, but it stays very interesting moving forward. The grilles are mounted using magnets, something which is not (yet) available even in the Evidence, the single wire terminals mounted close to the floor are the solid WBT-0703 nextgen™, and the two bass reflex ports mounted on the back plate can be closed off with supplied plugs, which can be used to adjust the amount of bass in when the speakers are placed in a given listening room. In this moment I need to mention, that the 30 are very sensitive to the wall on their back, so it is worth to move them around in your room to find a sweet spot for them, as the changes in sound are really significant.
And how did the newest incarnation of the Contour 30 fare in the most important part of the described test? Not disclosing too many details, and not giving away too many spoilers, I will just tell, that I did not encounter such unpredictable, and in their own way, phenomenal speakers. I am talking about the fact, that receiving a completely new pair for testing, I had the true joy of observing the changes in their sound during the accommodation period, which lasted for over two weeks, and resembled a rollercoaster ride after taking a solid dose of psychoactive substances. Usually it happens, that first, quite soon, the dome tweeter reaches its final state, then, successively, further drivers, and in about 150 hours we have clarity what the given speaker is able to do. In case of the 30, the sound did not evolve during the two weeks, but it was just jumping around like crazy, making two steps forward, one back, then moving sideways, to go along a completely different path then we thought it would go five minutes ago. Treble once seemed to be mature, once withdrawn and with the third playing of the same piece seemed to have its own life. It was similar with the midrange, where it went from technical and short to truly tube-like exaggeration and then, without any warning, make a break for a cup of coffee or a smoke, in the least expected moment. I can say, that after a few days of such mood swings, I was afraid to leave the listening room, as I was not sure, what I would find returning. Fortunately closer to the end of the second week the situation started to stabilize, and the symptoms of schizophrenia stated disappearing making place for the true nature and result of the hard work of the people from Skanderborg.
I must confess, that agreeing to review the 30 I did not expect anything spectacular. Those are speakers close in size to my reference Gauder Arcona (a bit higher, but shallower), two-and-a-half way floorstanders from one level higher price range. Taking into account, how much you need to pay for “a bit” better in audio, this meeting should be regarded in terms of satisfying my own curiosity and refreshing knowledge about the offering of one of the most renowned and popular manufacturers. So a test like many before and we continue on? In theory yes, but in practice it was not so easy. The first symptoms, that not everything is as it would seem, I saw during the unboxing. Who, being sane on the mind and body, packs into chests, similar to those offered with for example YG Acoustics Carmel 2, loudspeakers, which would easily fit in cardboard, not only by posture, but also price. The cardboard box did not hurt the B&W 802D3, so it would not be a stain on the honor for Dynaudio. But OK, I can turn a blind eye for the material expenditure, as maybe Dynaudio heard, how the courier companies treat the parcels, but I cannot find any rationale for the attention paid to the finish of the cabinet. At least when we are talking about speakers made in Europe, not even mentioning Scandinavia. But how do the Contour look like you can clearly see and this is all we can say. And we still have to talk about their sound, and this is the place, where true issues are, as with a pain in my heart I must say, that the 30 do not sound like they would cost 30 000 PLN. They sound in such a way, as if they would cost this amount per piece, and that would even be a bargain and a superb investment. This is the reason I propose, at least in the beginning, to look at them, and to listen to them, not based on their price tag, but completely detached from that. Something in the style of a “blind session”, where the speakers are standing behind an acoustically transparent veil, and we try to assess their assets and shortcomings, free from any other influences.
So let us star from the top, which is …, no, I will not write it is the same as I heard from the Evidence Master, because that would be evidently over the top, but … it had the same feeling, the same style, a combination of incredible spaciousness, three dimensionality, resolution and sweetness. Up until today I thought, that in this aspect, the AMT, albeit on certain, let us call it acceptable price level, does not have any true competition, and I was right. Until today, because the Esostar2 did not only offer better resolution, but also finesse, and at the same time it showed that you can achieve even better three dimensionality. The dainty Youn Sun Nah, on her last album, recorded in the Sears Sound studio, called “She Moves On” taunted like never before, and instead of piercing your brain with an almost inhuman shriek, she invited for a lazy tour around the land of gentleness. However if someone would think, that it would be boring and apathetic, then that person would be mistaken, as on the cover “Drifting” Hendrix, an incredible solo was played by Marc Ribot, while the “Traveler” opening the disc, is a true feast of cymbals placed in the background, which are appropriately lighted by the Dynaudio, so they are not lost in the shadows. But to learn the true colors of this lovely lady, it is worth to take a step back to 2010 and listen to “Same Girl” with a surprising interpretation of “Enter Sandman” by Metallica. It is the same vocalist, and the emotion, the reverberation aura and dynamics in the treble are completely different, and the second version of the textile Esotar is showing this on a silver plate, in a very readable, yet not too insolent way, so that you cannot miss it. Fortunately we do not feel like sitting on a lecture, where an austere professor is treating the auditorium like a bunch of idiots and speaks sloooowly and very cleaaaarlyyyy for everybody to understand. Here the perceptiveness and refinement of the listeners are promoted, while the directions for individual study are suggested or hinted at, and not enforced.
Also all kinds of chord instruments come over phenomenally, slightly sprinkled with a golden dust they gain on palpability and attractiveness, and it does not matter, if we want to listen to the moody “Opus” by Al Di Meola or the much heavier and more powerful accomplishments of the formation Sons of Apollo put on the disc “Psychotic Symphony”. And in that moment we come to the area, where the Dynaudio not only expand their wings fully, showing their wingspan, but also show us their claws, pushing us into the listening chair like a mythical gryphon. Yet besides the might and power they have also something, that keeps the mentioned characteristic in their place, in a way, namely incredible control, ability to differentiate and unrivalled speed of rising and falling of the sound. Yes, yes, despite the common opinion, about some kind of fluff and loosened low octaves we will not see any of this in the Contour, as long as we can provide appropriate amplification, as despite the seemingly friendly parameters, the 30 need noticeably more power and current for proper driving, than my Gauder, which are not the easiest to drive either. So if you have a taste for mad percussion parts and riffs played with the speed of light from “Survivalist” by 4 ARM, then you should have a small power plant at your disposal, something in the looks of Bryston 4B³, or some super integrated, either from the other side of the ocean, like the Pass Int 250, or staying in Denmark, the Gryphon Diablo 300. With such support, the Dynaudio will be able to play practically everything, even at concert levels of volume, without any signs of compression.
Now I need to praise the R&D team working on the new incarnation of the Contour, which declared in the press materials, that the new transducers are able to reproduce lower reaching bass on higher volume levels, compared to their predecessors, and during the development phase, the designers were listening to everything the could, from jazz, through classical, electronics to metal, as those statements are absolutely true! It was exactly the case, and you could immediately hear this. No constraints, no attempts to mask shortcomings, no faking of anything. In addition, remaining in the quite brute musical aesthetics, it is worth mentioning, that vocals, male and female – amongst appearances in “Rise of the Tyrant” by Arch Enemy, the lovely Angela Gossow is shouting, were treated with extra attention. Their saturation, their boost, makes, that amongst the truly hellish sounds, we do not notice any signs of dryness or thinning, in contrary, we tend to notice that they are a bit more saturated, and in case of male voices, they tend to have a lower key. But this treatment does not change the tonal balance of the reproduced sound, it makes it a bit more attractive and intensifies it, minimizing the glassiness and clamor, perceived as parasite effects.
However despite their spontaneity and surprising, for such inconspicuous constructions, dynamics, the Contour can easily show their more lyrical, more languorous or sometimes even clearly introvert and focused side. Instead of a wall of sound, they show the fullness of their abilities also in recordings, where seemingly not much is happening, and one of the artistic expression items is silence. Let us take as an example the phenomenal, solo album of Jean-Philippe Collard-Neven “Out of Focus” , full of his own compositions, improvisations and quite ambiguous musical lines, which we heard somewhere before, but humming them is far beyond the capabilities of most of the people. We are talking here about a piano, floating in a well of velvet, with its sounds slowly decaying instead of attacking our senses. For outsiders, this kind of repertoire could seem as passionate, as observing leaves falling from trees in autumn, or observing how fast a bench in a park is rusting. Yet the Dynaudio is able to concentrate our attention for about one hour on the piano player’s delicate articulation, on enjoying each and every sound and propagation of those sounds in space. They can somehow force us to slow down, to sit in our listening chair with a cup of aromatic espresso and forget about the rush around us. Additionally, with a repertoire so leveled in terms of dynamics, we can try, a somewhat surprising, and opposing to what I mentioned before, amplification, and use a tube amplifier instead of a big solid state. Having the opportunity, I tried, as an experiment, a Polish product, Audio Reveal First (English translation coming soon) with only 10W per channel and … I can say, that this was bull’s eye, as long as you fancy small, chamber ensembles. Of course you need to pay attention to the real capabilities of the amplification, and not turn your volume too much up, but the effect of saturation and euphonic of the sound may be a blessing for many audiophiles for years. Maybe such a combination will not be very universal, but in this whole game you need to have one thing in mind. Our own system is constructed and polished for our individual taste, and it should please us, and we can listen to other opinions out of politeness. And the 30 with a tube amplifier can be appealing, and I think, that such kinds of marriages would not be so rare, as it might seem at first glance.
OK, as we have the photographic session, a short characteristic of technical nature and then the burning in and listening sessions done, then there is time for some kind of conclusion, putting the speakers back into their chests and agreeing, when those would be picked up by the distributor. And while the steps in the past we can regard as closed and finalized, with the resume the only thing that comes to mind is, tat the Contour 30 do not only look like, but also sound as much more expensive products. Combining finesse and resolution of its older brethren, they offer dynamics you could expect only from much bigger speakers. So looking for elegant, and at the same time, not very absorbing in terms of space, “soundwave generators”, even for a 30-35 square meter listening room, I would propose to start your listening sessions with them, and not with the 60, which are aimed at 50+ square meter rooms.
Looking for some keyword, allowing for the most fitting description of the 30, I thought about something, which was popular amongst people a tad older than me, at least in Poland, which describes a versatility close to ideal, combined with the fulfillment of the expectations placed on that thing, a proverb “do tańca i do różańca”, what means in translation “to be game of everything”. And this is exactly how the 30 from Dynaudio are, and this is also the reason, that I will allow myself a small insubordination and I will distort the usual procedure, and instead of preparing the speakers for sending them back to the distributor … I will prepare them for further listening, but this time not conducted from necessity, but for my own pleasure. In a nutshell – there will be no packing or sending back, the Dynaudio Contour 30 will remain at my listening room as part of my reference system. I just met the speakers fulfilling all my expectations, priced so modestly, that you may consider it a dumping price, so with full satisfaction, and with almost childish joy, I embraced the opportunity, which might not have happened again.
I do not know how things went for you, but for me the Santa Claus, the Star Child, or whatever big guy with significant overweight and a taste for milk and cookies arrived one week sooner than expected.
System used in this test:
– CD/DAC: Ayon CD-35 (Preamp + Signature)
– Network player: Lenovo Z70-80 i7/16GB RAM/240GB SSD + JRiver Media Center 22 + TIDAL HiFi + JPLA; Lumin U1 Mini
– All’in’One: Naim Uniti Nova
– Digital sources selector: Audio Authority 1177
– Turntable: Kuzma Stabi S + Kuzma Stogi + Shelter 201
– Phonostage: Tellurium Q Iridium MM/MC Phono Pre Amp
– Power amplifier: Bryston 4B³
– Loudspeakers: Gauder Akustik Arcona 80 + spike extenders
– IC RCA: Tellurium Q Silver Diamond
– IC XLR: LessLoss Anchorwave; Organic Audio; Amare Musica
– Digital IC: Fadel art DigiLitz; Harmonic Technology Cyberlink Copper; Apogee Wyde Eye; Monster Cable Interlink LightSpeed 200
– USB cables: Wireworld Starlight; Goldenote Firenze Silver; Audiomica Laboratory Pebble Consequence USB
– Speaker cables: Signal Projects Hydra
– Power cables: Furutech FP-3TS762 / FI-28R / FI-E38R; Organic Audio Power; Acoustic Zen Gargantua II; Furutech Nanoflux Power NCF
– Power distribution board: Furutech e-TP60ER + Furutech FP-3TS762 / Fi-50 NCF(R) /FI-50M NCF(R)
– Wall power socket: Furutech FT-SWS(R)
– Anti-vibration platform: Franc Audio Accessories Wood Block Slim Platform
– Ethernet cables: Neyton CAT7+; Audiomica Laboratory Anort Consequence
– Table: Rogoz Audio 4SM3
– Accessories: Sevenrods Dust-caps; Furutech CF-080 Damping Ring; Albat Revolution Loudspeaker Chips
Type: 2,5 way, Bass Reflex, Bass Reflex Rear Ported
Crossover Frequency: 300 Hz, 2.2 kHz
Sensitivity: 87 dB (2,83V / 1m)
IEC Power Handling: 300 W
Impedance: 4 Ω
Frequency Response (±3dB): 32 Hz – 23 kHz
Loudspeakers: 2 x 18 cm MSP Woofer, 28 mm Esotar2 Tweeter
Dimensions (W x H x D): 215 x 1140 x 360 mm
Dimensions with feet/grill (W x H x D): 256 x 1170 x 396 mm
Weight: 34.4 kg / each